Menstuff® has information on Cancer Symptoms. Annual checkups and tests such as colonoscopies and PSA assays are important, but it's not a good idea to rely on tests alone to protect you from cancer. It's just as important to listen to your body and notice anything that's different, odd, or unexplainable. (You should also listen to those close to you, such as a wife or partner, because others sometimes notice things we're unaware of -- or don't want to admit.) You don't want to join the ranks of cancer patients who realize too late that symptoms they'd noticed for a long time could have sounded the alarm earlier, when cancer was easier to cure.
25 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
25 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
One of the first signs colon cancer patients remember experiencing when they look back is unexplained stomach aches. Those with pancreatic cancer describe a dull ache that feels like it's pressing inward. Many liver cancer patients say they went in complaining of stomach cramps and upset stomachs so frequently that their doctors thought they had ulcers. Liver cancer patients and those with leukemia can experience abdominal pain resulting from an enlarged spleen, which may feel like an ache on the lower left side.
If you have a stomachache that you can't attribute to a digestive problem or that doesn't go away, ask your doctor to order an ultrasound. Finding a liver or pancreatic tumor early can make all the difference in treatment.
Chronic "acid stomach" or feeling full after a small meal
The most common early sign of stomach cancer is pain in the upper or middle abdomen that feels like gas or heartburn. It may be aggravated by eating, so that you feel full when you haven't actually eaten much. What's particularly confusing is that the pain can be relieved by antacids, confirming your conclusion that it was caused by acid in the stomach, when it's more than that. An unexplained pain or ache in lower right side can be the first sign of liver cancer, known as one of the "silent killers." Feeling full after a small meal is a common sign of liver cancer as well.
If you have frequent bouts of acid stomach, an unexplained abdominal ache, or a full feeling after meals even when you're eating less than normal, call your doctor.
Unexplained weight loss
If you notice the pounds coming off and you haven't made changes to your diet or exercise regime, it's important to find out why. Unexplained weight loss can be an early sign of colon and other digestive cancers; it can also be a sign of cancer that's spread to the liver, affecting your appetite and the ability of your body to rid itself of waste.
Pancreatic cancer, another one of the "silent killers," is often discovered when someone notices jaundice and asks the doctor to do a battery of tests. Jaundice is most commonly thought of as a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, but darker-than-normal urine that's not the result of dehydration is also a sign. Clay-colored stools are another little-known sign of jaundice. Oddly, jaundice can also cause itching, because the bile salts in the bloodstream cause the skin to itch. Some people with pancreatic cancer say they noticed the itching before they noticed the jaundice itself.
Wheezing or shortness of breath
One of the first signs lung cancer patients remember noticing when they look back is the inability to catch their breath. "I couldn't even walk to my car without wheezing; I thought I had asthma, but how come I didn't have it before?" is how one man described it. Shortness of breath, chest pain, or spitting blood are also signs of testicular cancer that's spread to the lungs.
Most commonly associated with esophageal or throat cancer, having trouble swallowing is sometimes one of the first signs of lung cancer, too. Men diagnosed with esophageal cancer look back and remember a feeling of pressure and soreness when swallowing that didn't go away the way a cold or flu would have. Consult your doctor also if you have a frequent feeling of needing to clear your throat or that food is stuck in your chest; either of these can signal a narrowing of the esophagus that could mean the presence of a tumor.
If you just ate half a pizza, heartburn is expected. But if you have frequent episodes of heartburn or a constant low-level feeling of pain in the chest after eating, call your doctor and ask to be screened for esophageal cancer. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- a condition in which stomach acid rises into the esophagus, causing heartburn and an acidic taste in the throat -- can trigger a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which can be a precursor of esophageal cancer.
Swelling of facial features
Some patients with lung cancer report that they noticed puffiness, swelling, or redness in the face. The explanation for this is that small cell lung tumors commonly block blood vessels in the chest, preventing blood from flowing freely from the head and face.
Swollen lymph nodes or lumps on the neck, underarm, or groin
Enlarged lymph nodes indicate changes in the lymphatic system, which can be a sign of cancer. For example, a lump or an enlarged lymph in the neck or underarm is sometimes a sign of thyroid, head, or throat cancer. A painless lump on the neck, underarm, or groin can be an early sign of leukemia.
Excessive bruising or bleeding that doesn't stop
This symptom usually suggests something abnormal happening with the platelets and red blood cells, which can be a sign of leukemia. One man with leukemia noticed that his gums bled when he brushed his teeth; another described bruising in strange places, such as on his fingers and hands. The explanation: Over time, leukemia cells crowd out red blood cells and platelets, impairing the blood's ability to carry oxygen and clot.
Weakness and fatigue
"I had to stop halfway across the yard and sit down when I was mowing the lawn," said one man when describing the fatigue that led to his discovery of pancreatic cancer. Generalized fatigue and weakness is a symptom of so many different kinds of cancer (and other ills) that you'll need to look at it in combination with other symptoms. But any time you feel exhausted without explanation and it doesn't respond to getting more sleep, talk to your doctor.
Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
"I thought it was hemorrhoids" is one of the most common statements doctors hear when diagnosing colorectal cancer. Blood in the toilet alone is reason to call your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy. Another sign of blood in the stool many people miss is stools that are darker in color.
Constipation, diarrhea, and changes in stools can all be signs of cancer. As with many other cancer symptoms, the way to tell if this is cause for concern is if it goes on for more than a few days without a clear cause, such as flu or food poisoning. People diagnosed with colon cancer say they noticed more frequent stools, as well as a feeling that their bowels weren't emptying completely. One of the early signs of pancreatic cancer is fatty stools, which can be recognized as frequent, large stools that are paler than normal and smelly. This is a sign that your body's not absorbing your food normally, and it should be brought to your doctor's attention.
Difficulty urinating or changes in flow
Hands-down, the most common early sign of prostate cancer is a feeling of not being able to start peeing once you're set to go. Many men also report having a hard time stopping the flow of urine, a flow that starts and stops, or a stream that's weaker than normal. Any of these symptoms is reason to call your doctor for an exam and a screening test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
Pain or burning during urination
This symptom can also indicate a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease, of course, but in any case it warrants an immediate trip to the doctor. This symptom is often combined with the feeling that you need to go more often, particularly at night. These same symptoms can also indicate inflammation or infection in the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia, the name for what happens when the prostate grows bigger and blocks the flow of urine. However, you need to get checked out to tell the difference.
Blood in urine or semen
Men are often warned about blood in the urine, but they may not realize that blood in semen is also a danger sign for prostate cancer. Blood in the urine or semen isn't always visible as blood; urine may just be a pink, dark red, or smoky brown color, while blood in the semen may just look like a pinkish streak.
As prostate cancer progresses, another very common sign is difficulty getting or sustaining an erection. This can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it's important to bring it to your doctor's attention. It could be a sign of sexual dysfunction with another cause, of course, but it's a reason to have an exam and a PSA test.
Pain, aching, or heaviness in the groin, hips, thighs, or abdomen
One sign of prostate cancer is frequent pain in the hips, upper thighs, or the lowest part of the back. Men with testicular cancer report noticing a heavy, aching feeling low in the belly or abdomen, or in the scrotum or testicles themselves. They sometimes describe it as a feeling of downward pulling or as a generalized ache throughout the groin area. Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes often makes itself known as discomfort in the pelvis or swelling in the legs.
Testicular swelling or lump
The lumps that indicate testicular cancer are nearly always painless. It's also common for a testicle to be enlarged or swollen, but lacking any specific lump that you can see or feel. Some men report feeling discomfort from the enlargement, but not an outright pain.
Unexplained back pain
Back pain can mean all sorts of things, of course -- most often pulled muscles or disc problems. But unexplained, persistent back pain can be an early sign of cancer as well, so get it checked out. Pain in the lower back and hips can be a sign of prostate cancer, while pain in the upper back can signal lung cancer. A pain in the upper abdomen and back is one of the few early signs of pancreatic cancer.
Scaly or painful nipple or chest, nipple discharge
Men do get breast cancer; they also get a condition called gynecomastia, which is a benign lump in the breast area. Breast cancer is usually detected as a lump, but if it's spreading inward it can also cause chest pain. Other signs of breast cancer include patches of red, scaly, or dimpled skin or changes to the nipple such as turning inward or leaking fluid. Bring any lump, swelling, or skin or nipple problem, or any chest pain, to your doctor's attention.
A sore or skin lump that doesn't heal, becomes crusty, or bleeds easily
Most of us know to watch moles for changes that might indicate skin cancer. But other signs, such as small waxy lumps or dry scaly patches, are easier to miss. Familiarize yourself with the different types of skin cancer -- melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma -- and be vigilant about checking skin all over the body for odd-looking growths or spots.
Changes in nails
Unexplained changes to the fingernails can be a sign of several
types of cancer. A brown or black streak or dot under the nail can
indicate skin cancer, while newly discovered "clubbing," which means
enlargement of the ends of the fingers, with nails that curve down
over the tips, can be a sign of lung cancer. Pale or white nails can
be an indication that your liver is not functioning properly,
sometimes a sign of liver cancer.
15 Cancer Symptoms
Some men are notorious foot-draggers, especially when it comes to scheduling doctor visits. Thats unfortunate. Routine preventive care can find cancer in men and other diseases in the early stages, when there are more options for treatment and better chances of a cure. Some men, though, would never go to the doctor except for the women in their life. According to Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society, women are often the ones who push men to get screened for cancer.
Experts say that men could benefit greatly by being alert to certain cancer symptoms that indicate a trip to the doctors office sooner rather than later. Some of those cancer symptoms in men are specific. They involve certain body parts and may even point directly to the possibility of cancer. Other symptoms are more vague. For instance, pain that affects many body parts could have dozens of explanations and may not be cancer. But that doesnt mean you can rule out cancer without seeing a doctor.
No. 1: Breast Mass
If youre like most men, youve probably never considered the possibility of having breast cancer. Although its not common, it is possible. "Any new mass in the breast area of a man needs to be checked out by a physician," Lichtenfeld says.
In addition, the American Cancer Society identifies several other worrisome signs involving the breast that men as well as women should take note of. They include:
When you consult your physician about any of these signs, expect him to take a careful history and do a physical exam. Then, depending on the findings, the doctor may order a mammogram, a biopsy, or other tests.
No. 2: Pain
As they age, people often complain of more aches and pains. But pain, as vague as it may be, can be an early symptom of some cancers although most pain complaints are not from cancer.
Any pain that persists, according to the American Cancer Society, should be checked out by your physician. The doctor can take a careful history, get more details, and then decide whether further testing is necessary, and if so what kind. If it's not cancer, you will still benefit from the visit to the office. Thats because the doctor can work with you to find out what's causing the pain and help you know what to do about it.
No. 3: Changes in the Testicles
Testicular cancer occurs most often in men aged 20 to 39. The American Cancer Society recommends that men get a testicular exam by a doctor as part of a routine cancer-related checkup. And some doctors suggest a monthly self-exam.
Yu tells WebMD that being aware of troublesome testicular symptoms between exams is wise. "Any change in the size of the testicles, such as growth or shrinkage," Yu says, should be a concern. In addition, swelling or a lump should not be ignored. Nor should a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. Some testicular cancers occur very quickly. So early detection is especially crucial. Yu recalls a young man who waited until his testicle was the size of a grapefruit before coming in for help. "If you feel a hard lump of coal [in your testicle], get it checked right away," Yu says.
Your doctor will do a testicular exam and an overall assessment of your health. If cancer is suspected, blood tests may be ordered. You may undergo an ultrasound examination of your scrotum. Your doctor may also decide to do a biopsy, taking a tiny sample of testicular tissue to examine it for cancer.
No. 4: Changes in the Lymph Nodes
If you notice a lump or swelling in the lymph nodes under your armpit or in your neck -- or anywhere else -- it could be a reason for concern, says Hannah Linden, MD. Linden is a medical oncologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is also a joint associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. "If you have a lymph node that gets progressively larger, and it's been longer than a month, see a doctor," she says.
Your doctor will examine you and figure out any associated issues that could explain the lymph node enlargement, such as infection. If there is no infection, a doctor will typically order a biopsy.
No. 5: Fever
If you've got an unexplained fever, it may indicate cancer. It could also be a sign of pneumonia or some other illness that needs treatment.
Most cancers will cause fever at some point. Often, fever occurs after the cancer has spread from its original site and invaded another part of the body. But it can also be caused by blood cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society. Its best not to ignore a fever that cant be explained. Check with your doctor to find out what might be causing it and if anything needs to be done.
No. 6: Weight Loss Without Trying
Unexpected weight loss is a concern, Lichtenfeld says. "Most of us don't lose weight easily." He's talking about more than simply a few pounds from a stepped up exercise program or to eating less because of a busy schedule. If a man loses more than 10% of his body weight in a short time period such as a matter of weeks, its time to see the doctor, he says.
Your doctor will do a general physical, ask you questions about your diet and exercise, and ask about other symptoms. Based on that information, the doctor will decide what other tests are needed.
No. 7: Gnawing Abdominal Pain and Depression
Any guy who's got a pain in the abdomen and is feeling depressed needs a checkup, says Lichtenfeld. Experts have found a link between depression and pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms can include jaundice or a change in the stool color, often a gray color.
Expect your doctor to do a careful physical exam and take a history. The doctor may then order tests such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and, possibly, other scans and tests.
No. 8: Fatigue
Fatigue is another vague symptom that could point to cancer in men. But a host of other problems could cause it as well. Like fever, fatigue can set in after the cancer has grown. But it may also happen early in cancers such as leukemia or with some colon or stomach cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
If you often feel extremely tired and it doesnt get better with rest, check with your doctor. The doctor will evaluate it along with any other symptoms in order to determine whats causing it and what can be done about it.
No. 9: Persistent Cough
Coughs are expected, of course, with colds, the flu, and allergies. They are also sometimes a side effect of a medication. But a very prolonged cough -- defined as lasting more than three or four weeks -- should not be ignored, says Ranit Mishori, MD, assistant professor and director of the family medicine clerkship at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. That kind of cough warrants a visit to the doctor. It could be a symptom of cancer, or it could indicate some other problem such as chronic bronchitis or acid reflux.
Your doctor will take a careful history, examine your throat, check how your lungs are functioning, and, especially if you are a smoker, perhaps order X-rays. Once the reason for the coughing is identified, the doctor will work with you to determine a treatment plan.
No. 10: Difficulty Swallowing
Some men may report trouble swallowing but then learn to live with it, Lichtenfeld says. "Over time, they change their diet to a more liquid diet. They start to drink more soup." But swallowing difficulties, he says, could be a sign of a GI cancer, such as cancer of the esophagus.
Let your doctor know if you are having trouble swallowing. Your doctor will take a careful history and possibly order a chest X-ray. The doctor may also send you to a specialist for an upper endoscopy to examine your esophagus and upper GI tract.
No. 11: Changes in the Skin
You should be alert to not only changes in moles -- a well-known sign of potential skin cancer -- but also changes in skin pigmentation, says Mary Daly, MD. Daly is an oncologist and head of the department of clinical genetics at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
She also says that suddenly developing bleeding on your skin or excessive scaling are reasons to check with your doctor. It's difficult to say how long is too long to observe skin changes, but most experts say not to wait longer than several weeks.
To find out whats causing the changes, your doctor will take a careful history and perform a careful physical exam. The doctor may also order a biopsy to rule out cancer.
No. 12: Blood Where It Shouldn't Be
Anytime you see blood coming from a body part where you've never seen it before, see a doctor, Lichtenfeld says. "If you start coughing or spitting up blood, have blood in the bowel, or blood in the urine, its time for a doctor visit.
Mishori says its a mistake to assume blood in the stool is simply from a hemorrhoid. "It could be colon cancer," he says.
Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. The doctor may also order tests such as a colonoscopy, which is an examination of the colon using a long flexible tube with a camera on one end. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to identify any signs of cancer or precancer or to identify what else might be causing the bleeding.
No. 13: Mouth Changes
If you smoke or chew tobacco, you need to be especially alert for any white patches inside your mouth or white spots on your tongue. Those changes may indicate leukoplakia, a precancerous area that can occur with ongoing irritation. The condition can progress to oral cancer.
You should report the changes to your doctor or dentist. The dentist or doctor will take a careful history, examine the changes, and then decide what other tests might be needed.
No. 14: Urinary Problems
As men age, urinary problems become more frequent, says Yu. He's talking about the urge to urinate more often, a sense of urgency, and a feeling of not completely emptying the bladder. "Every man will develop these problems as he gets older," he says. "But if you notice it and it concerns you, you should seek attention." That's especially true if the symptoms get worse.
Your doctor will do a digital rectal exam, which will tell him whether the prostate gland is enlarged. The gland often enlarges as a man ages. Its typically caused by a noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. Your doctor may also order a blood test to check the level of prostate-specific antigen or PSA. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland, and the test is used to help determine the possibility of prostate cancer. If the doctor notices abnormalities in the prostate or if the PSA is higher than it should be, your doctor may refer you to an urologist and perhaps order a biopsy.
No. 15: Indigestion
A lot of guys, especially as they get older, think "heart attack" when they get bad indigestion, even if they've just eaten and drunk their way through a marathon Super Bowl viewing. But persistent indigestion could point to cancer of the esophagus, throat, or stomach and should be reported to your doctor.
Your doctor will take a careful history and ask questions about
the indigestion episodes. Based on the history and your answers to
the questions, the doctor will decide what tests are needed.